Wall Street with Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen is one of my favorite movies. The sequel to it was Money Never Sleeps and when it comes to all things politics…money never sleeps.
In today’s Talk Business & Politics, there’s a clip about the Sierra Club receiving a $30 million donation for the purpose of fighting coal companies over the next two years. So what does that mean? It means that the coal industry, other stakeholders, and two local Arkansas communities have a fight on their hands. Most importantly, that fight began the instant the check cleared and you can be sure that money will go to promote more than clean energy.
That’s why – just like money – public policy never sleeps. There is a false sense of security as soon as any state legislature adjourns and this is certainly one area where perception is NOT the reality. The “interim” is where well organized and long-term legislative strategies are born.
It’s one thing to fix inadequacies in the law for the purpose of stabilizing the marketplace and providing economic reforms. It’s another to fight harmful, reactionary regulations that make the marketplace harder to navigate.
The latter is driven by three main factors:
- Politics – It’s nothing new that lawmakers file bills with elections in mind. An interesting blog back in February by MSNBC talked about how some of the Presidential candidates were using a legislative agenda tactic as a way to give them a stump advantage on the campaign trail. Although the effectiveness of this tactic is highly debatable, what isn’t debatable is how much it might cost your company or organization to fight these types of politically driven regulations. Also lost is economic/regulatory reform opportunities for the sake of single interest political battles.
- Emotion – Explosive events like the tragic situation in Ferguson, Missouri can make a very local issue a national legislative agenda in just a matter of days. More than a dozen states had legislation focused on increasing police accountability in the wake of the Ferguson police shooting. The recent police shooting in South Carolina only ensures that “body-camera” and individual rights legislation aren’t going away anytime soon. These emotional issues frequently spill over into other issues and before you realize, you are dealing with property issues, individual liberty, and other social issues that distract from other policy battles.
- Revenge – When a shift in power occurs, it becomes a priority to some policy makers to ‘make right’ on the perceived political injustices of the past. Industries that lost previously on a policy fight want to “correct’ things once new faces arrive at the legislature. Poorly thought out ‘corrective language’ gets inserted into a shell bill because the loser in another fight wants to get even. These happen every legislative session all over the nation. It can get expensive if you are playing from behind.
Politics, emotion, and revenge almost never provide meaningful legislative reforms. That’s why smart companies engage the legislative process twelve months out of the year and position themselves to be a resource for policy makers. It’s much more expensive to fight an issue from behind than to participate full-time in the process.
Public policy never sleeps. If your business or organization is affected by regulatory policy, government relations activity should be a regular cost of doing business.